On Tuesday I'll be talking at the Colville Public Library about writing for anthologies. I began writing my life's stories nearly five years ago. It's a never-ending endeavor. But I'm glad I've chosen to do it in snippets, in small chunks, for anthologies, not for a stand-alone autobiography.
I'd bet that would be a futile effort. I've benefited from the experience of others. For instance, back in the '70s, a friend confided that he'd drafted the first several chapters of his autobiography and sent it to his agent, the very woman who had helped him reach success as a writer...in his special area of expertise, solar energy. Did she give him a thumbs up? No way. He showed me the terse note she'd sent him in those pre-computer days.
"Ted, you are not a household name. Nobody wants to read about your upbringing in Lahore, nor your views on current affairs, either in Pakistan or in your own checkered life."
Ted was dashed with this news. He'd published half a dozen books that had sold well to environmentalists and engineers. He thought he had what today is known as a platform.
But his readers were interested in his expertise, not in him. He abandoned trying to market his life story and embarked on writing a novel. Of course it was based on his life...a thinly veiled recounting of his marriages and divorces, mistakes and triumphs. His agent didn't like that either. Abashed, Ted gave up and settled down to write a book about windmill power.
He'd found his niche. But I think he'd have a best seller today. Times have changed. His recounting of his woes and troubles, loves unrewarded, fortunes lost through reckless gambling, stints in rehab for alcoholism. The very stuff of reality TV and celebrity bios.
Though I've chosen a different path in telling my story in snippets to inspirational anthologies, I, too, have a shadier, edgier side. My life's not all mirth and sunshine. So these past few months I've targeted other markets. I've written about:
- My undiagnosed childhood anxiety disorder for an anthology of women's stories of struggles with mental illness.
- My failed first marriage for a book on how women successfully survive toxic relationships.
- My favor for a writer friend that paid off, but not in the way I'd anticipated, for a collection of reflections about good deeds.
But, hey, I've always believed that happiness is a choice. So I'm determined to shove and shoulder my way into this book!
So far I've written about building a friendship with a penpal, paying thankful homage to the IRS, revisiting a childhood home, celebrating a birthday in the Dominican Republic and delighting in a tasty snack on the shores of Lake Naivasa in Kenya. Now I'm tackling a new topic, why I'm still happiest with a book, even though I appreciate my Kindle.
Will I be happy if all my submissions are rejected? Not overjoyed, but I'll still be happy. As I'll tell my audience on Tuesday, I always let my turned-down tales incubate in my story orphanage for a while. Then I spiffy them up and send them to knock on other doors. Rejection may sting...but it doesn't mean the story's not worth resubmitting.
Nor that I can't call myself... like Anne Boleyn...The Most Happy!
Anne knew what would make her happy and she got it...at least for a while.